Abstract| Volume 23, ISSUE 3, PB19-B20, March 2022

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Physicians' Telehealth Experience in PALTC During the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020


      Prior to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, telemedicine was limited and infrequently used in PALTC. As the pandemic spread and negatively impacted direct physician care, telemedicine offered a way to ensure continuity of care. Telehealth was a crucial link between physicians and staff to provide medical care and support when in person access was restricted. There is limited literature with regards to physician experience and satisfaction with telemedicine in PALTC. Physicians were surveyed for their experiences with telehealth. Billing data using telehealth codes was reviewed for the year 2020. A subset of the physicians who had billed telemedicine codes were surveyed with a short questionnaire.


      PALTC attending physicians in RI, CT, PA, and NJ were emailed a Google-form style survey made up of multiple choice, multi-answer and open answer style questions. The responses were quantified automatically by the form. Respondents were not offered compensation.


      Of the 34 physicians surveyed, 56% responded. Their participation in telehealth peaked at months of the year that were consistent with COVID-19 peaks in the U.S., specifically in March-May 2020. Follow up visits were the most commonly performed type of visit (80%) followed by H&P examination (40%) which is consistent with PALTC physician work. 47% of respondents performed greater than 20 telehealth visits but almost 13% reported performing more than 100 visits. Overwhelmingly, physicians reported conducting telehealth visits because they attended in more than one building and one of their centers was experiencing an outbreak. Facetime was the most commonly (80%) used platform followed by Zoom (33%). When asked how they felt about using telemedicine, physicians reported feeling both comfortable and successful. Access to a smartphone was the most important component and the biggest barrier was WIFI or connectivity issues. Most importantly, 64% of respondents felt that telehealth could contribute positively to their practice moving forward.


      Telehealth was a critical component of the delivery of medical care by physicians working in PALTC settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. This survey showed that despite center challenges with WIFI access and staffing shortages, there was early and swift adoption of telemedicine among a subset of physicians. The data demonstrates that physicians quickly adapted to using telehealth in the PALTC setting to perform acute visits, history and physicals and regulatory visits in addition to communicating with center staff. Physicians found telehealth instrumental in their ability to communicate directly with patients and their families, to discuss advance care planning, and support nursing staff in addition to complementing their medical practice. Additional research would be necessary to further our understanding of the value of telemedicine in the PALTC setting.


      All authors have stated there are no financial disclosures to be made that are pertinent to this abstract.